Enbridge claims its new Line 3 pipeline route through Minnesota will be safe. During my term as director of the Minnesota Pollution Agency in the 1970s, we dealt with 12 spills from this line’s previous owner, Lakehead Pipeline, in just 19 months.
More recently, in 2010, an Enbridge line spilled 820,000 gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan where it couldn’t all be removed. Enbridge claims to have earned trust following that spill and to have operated “safely for decades” in Minnesota.
The story gets worse. What if the oil from Line 3 cannot be piped from Superior through Line 5 and under the Mackinac Straits to the lower Great Lakes? Michigan’s governor has challenged that. The issue is before the courts and in the permitting process. What then? The alternative would be trucking the oil or transporting it by rail.
There’s also a less-costly option: transship the oil on tankers over Lake Superior. While I was at the MPCA, Lakehead proposed doing that. My last act as MPCA director was convening an international conference in Duluth on specific threats to Lake Superior from oil shipments. For days, the best U.S. and Canadian scientists studiously examined the issue before agreeing the option would be extremely hazardous.That conclusion is relevant today.
Oil shipment is a critical concern. There are other issues from a new diversion of a Line 3 route that would land and waters where Native tribes hold treaty rights for hunting, fishing, and gathering.
The continued existence of Line 3 gives further incentive for Alberta to develop more of the world’s dirtiest oil with its outsized impact on climate change. Minnesota can and must do better.
Grant J. Merritt
New Hope, Minnesota
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